When working with SQL databases, it's essential to choose the right data types for your columns to optimize storage and query performance. In this article, we'll explore the differences between VARCHAR and CHAR, and when to use each one.


By Crystal / Updated on October 17, 2023

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What is VARCHAR in SQL

In SQL, VARCHAR stands for "Variable Character." It is a data type used to store character strings of varying lengths. VARCHAR columns can store both letters and numbers, and the length of the data they can hold is flexible, meaning it can vary from one entry to another. This is in contrast to CHAR.

what is varchar in sql

What is the Difference Between CHAR and VARCHAR in SQL

Two commonly used data types for storing character strings are VARCHAR and CHAR.

VARCHAR (Variable Character) in SQL:

Let's begin with VARCHAR. The length of a VARCHAR column is typically specified when you create a table in a database, and it can range from 1 character to a maximum length that depends on the database system you're using. For example, in some database systems, you might define a VARCHAR column like this:


In this example, the "column_name" can store character strings with a maximum length of 255 characters. If you store a shorter string, it will occupy only as much storage space as needed for the actual data, making VARCHAR a space-efficient choice for dynamic content.

CHAR (Fixed Character):

On the other hand, CHAR, short for "Character," represents a fixed-length character data type. When you define a CHAR column, it allocates a set amount of storage space for each entry, regardless of the actual length of the data. This ensures that all values in a CHAR column have the same length, which can be beneficial in specific situations, such as when dealing with fixed-length codes or identifiers.

Consider the following example:


In this case, "code" can only store strings of precisely 10 characters in length. If you insert a shorter string, it will be padded with spaces to meet the specified length. This padding can be both an advantage and a drawback, depending on your use case.

Comparing Different Data Types: VARCHAR vs. CHAR

Let's break down the differences between VARCHAR and CHAR in a tabular format for easy reference:

varchar vs char

When to Use VARCHAR vs. CHAR:

Choosing the appropriate data type is important for your storage efficiency, query performance, and overall database functionality. Determining when to use VARCHAR versus CHAR in SQL depends on your specific use case and the nature of the data.

  • Use VARCHAR when dealing with textual content like names, descriptions, or comments, where the length can vary significantly.
  • Use CHAR when you need fixed-length data, such as product codes, phone numbers, or other values that should consistently occupy a specified amount of storage space.

AOMEI Cyber Backup Ensures Your SQL Data Security with Ease

Whether you are a seasoned database administrator or a small business owner, safeguarding your SQL data is crucial. AOMEI Cyber Backup emerges as a reliable SQL backup solution, offering a user-friendly and efficient method to back up your SQL databases. It provides comprehensive data protection solutions, including system, disk and partition backup. For SQL users, this means you can ensure the safety of your valuable database data through an intuitive and efficient process.

Backing up your SQL databases with AOMEI Cyber Backup is a straightforward process. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

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Centralized and secure SQL backup

Before you create backup tasks with AOMEI Cyber Backup, you should:

  • Run the downloaded .exe file to install AOMEI Cyber Backup, and launch its main interface. Click Source Device Microsoft SQL Add Microsoft SQL.

Microsoft SQL

  • Choose Download proxy program or Copy link to download the Agent program and install it on the device with SQL Server installed. Then, click Already installed proxy to select the device.
  • Next, click icon Authentication to validate the database instance. You can choose Windows Authentication or SQL Authentication.

Add Device

That's it, now you can perform SQL Server auto backup every day via AOMEI Cyber Backup with the following steps:

1. Click Backup Task Create New Task to create a Microsoft SQL Backup task.

Backup Type

2. Click on Device Name to specify the instance and databases you want to back up. You can select one or multiple databases as you need.

Select Database

3. Select a Target storage to save your SQL backups, it could be a local path or network path.

Choose Target

4. Set up a backup Schedule to run the SQL database backup daily/weekly/monthly, and choose the backup method as Full/Incremental/Differential.

Schedule Backup

5. Click Start Backup to execute the task. Once it's finished, you will find it in the Backup Task tab.

✍ More useful features:

  • Backup Cleanup helps you to delete older backup version automatically and therefore save storage space. You can upgrade AOMEI Cyber Backup to enjoy this advanced feature.
  • Email Notification enables you to receive email notifications when the task is abnormal or successful.

AOMEI Cyber Backup simplifies SQL database backup with its intuitive interface and robust features.


This article guides you in making informed decisions when choosing between VARCHAR and CHAR for their SQL databases. VARCHAR in SQL is a flexible data type suited for variable-length text data, saving storage space while CHAR, "Fixed Character," is ideal for fixed-length data like codes or identifiers. We've compared these two data types, discussing their efficiency, use cases, and examples.

Crystal · Editor
Crystal is an editor from AOMEI Technology. She mainly writes articles about virtual machine. She is a positive young lady likes to share articles with peolpe. Off work she loves travelling and cooking which is wonderful for life.